Christmas: Asunaro line

Asunaro line, Yokkaichi

As I travel around Japan, especially at this time of year, I seem to almost be assaulted with Christmas, it is inescapable. Just when I thought I would get a break, I’m proven wrong.

The Asunaro is a small train line located in Yokkaichi city, Mie which would be a bus route in any other city. It’s small, cheap and great value for money, it is so much smaller than the Iga tetsudo line but amazingly it has 2 lines.

However Christmas is here as well. Admittedly it was a lovwlth offering but it was so out of place. Yokkaichi is an extreamly Japanese city, even on the train they use ございます(gozaimasu) instead of です(desu) for station names, not even the JR line does that.

Into this mix christmas flows as easily as reading the city’s name: 四日市市 which is easy once you know it (Yokkaichi-shi) but trying to work it out from the Kanji alone is troublesome.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring

Christmas: Pepsi?

December the month of xmas

Have a grape Christmas

Eve though it’s now December I still protest Christmas due mostly to the fact I’m in Japan. That does not mean I’m going to stop trying strange things.

Enter stage left: grape flavoured Pepsi. I know what your thinking, like OMG I can’t believe you bought that. But believe it or not it was really nice.

Imagine a mix of Pepsi and grape, it’s the ronseal of combinations. It’s refreshing and goes brilliant with ice. I don’t quite know how it’s a Christmas product but it gets my thumb up.

If you can do try it but if you can’t, you already know what it is like.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Cancer in Japan

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Cancer is a non-commutable disease (NCD) which is a developed rather than infectious disease. Like many other high-income countries, there is seemingly an epidemic of NCDs. To highlight this fact, in the 1900’s one of the leading causes of death in Japan was TB- a highly infectious disease and according to the latest data (well 2015 is recent…) only 1 of the top 20 causes of death in Japan is due to infectious diseases, 1 due to external factors and the other 18 are due to NCDs.

Side note, the number 12 spot is classed as “self harm” which should be read as suicide.

Cancer takes up 8 of the top 20 spots from the 5th leading cause of death (lung cancer) down to the 18th leading cause of death (oesophageal cancer) and while other cancers have appeared and disappeared from the table at times, cancer is always present. Additionally it is always present of DALYs reports- Disability adjusted life years.

Japan has active cancer screening programs and cancer awareness events (the most recent that I was aware about was in Nabari at the ADS hall which I remembered 2 days after the fact) and this occurs all across Japan- especially in Fukushima Prefecture where the WHO has rules that there is little chance of cancer development throughout the region with the exception of children and infants who may have been exposed to higher doses of radiation after the 2011 earthquake.

CAM treatment options

While researching cancer in Japan I came across complementary and alternative medicine (Kanpo in Japanese- 漢方) cancer treatments. The research suggests that of respondents in 16 cancer treatment centers and 40 palliative care treatment centers and 44.6% of cancer patients used CAM and 25.6% of patients with benign tumors use a form of CAM.

While there is sparse research of CAM treatment options in a Japanese context, current research does suggest that CAM treatment options have been used without consultation with a doctor.

Cancer screening

Cancer screening in Japan is purely voluntary, like any other country. However, the screening rate in Japan is lower than other HDC (highly developed countries) which but organisations like the Japan cancer society (the name could use some work) screening more than 10 million people annually working to ideally reduce the prevalence of cancer to 0.

To put some numbers behind this, in 2017 the JCS screened over 11.2 million people and 13,712 people were diagnosed with cancer so their actions are saving lives.

There is also a free cancer consultation hotline 03-3541-7830 which is a Japanese only hotline which provides expert advice on treatment options, advise on being employed with cancer.

If you would like to help the JCS out, there are many fundraising events throughout the year and donations can be made directly to the society.

More information can be found on: https://www.jcancer.jp/ and there is information in English and Japanese.

The main cancers prevalent in Japan are:

  • lung cancer
  • stomach cancer
  • intestinal cancers
  • breast cancer
  • cervical cancer

More interestingly, according to the JCS (who grouped all cancers together), cancer was the leading cause of death in Japan in 2017 with a total 373,334 people dying of cancer out of a total of 1,340,397 in 2017. Obviously the JSC have a bias ; but should that distract from it’s importance?

There is plenty of research on cancer in Japan, but it is either never translated into English or it exists as research papers which most people avoid.

Japanese note

Cancer in Japanese is simply がん and it mostly appears in this form. While there is kanji for cancer 癌 it is rarely used- even though it is interesting. The kanji is made up of 3 parts: 疒 Cancer in Japanese is simply がん and it mostly appears in this form. While there is kanji for cancer 癌 it is rarely used. The kanji is made up of 3 parts: 疒 meaning sickness, 品 meaning goods (in this context) and 山 meaning mountain. Collectively it means sick goods as high as a mountain.

I will leave this article here but there is so much more available and there is so much more I can talk about including types of cancer, death rates, treatment options including palliative care options etc.

If you have the resources, please do consider either spreading the word of cancer in Japan or donating.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.


If you would like a list of the resources used in my articles please do message me. I do not include my resources on blog posts but I usually, and if applicable, include links to major organisations and communities that may help.

Christmas: coke with a gift

Even the coke is festive…

Sugar free, it’s slightly better. Right?

At this point I have accepted the inevitably of Christmas in Japan and I decided to accept it. So let’s start with the reason for red being a Christmas colour: coca cola.

Coke is extremely well known (slight understatement) and is available everywhere including in North Korea, for the elite only of course.

Nevertheless the junk food giants coke and McDonald’s have decided to team up. For the small price of ¥85 you get a coke and either a free hamburger or a small fries.

Quick note as a former McDonald’s worker, a hamburger is a cheeseburger without the cheese, there is no difference in the meat–its still a 10:1 patty.

But the bottle comes with a delightful party trick:

A beautiful ribbon

That’s right, the label turns into a ribbon.

On the bright side, everything is recyclable and the coke zero was coke zero- exactly the same as the UK.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring

Opinion: Christmas infects lawson

Are you sure im no longer in the UK?

What a lovely hand

It’s official Christmas is absolutely everywhere every day. Today I saw a Facebook post about wamageddon and thought about the ease of getting through to Christmas day. I’m no longer sure about this.

Just before catching the train, I decided to get a nice fresh black coffee and it was given with a smile. I then looked at the cup- a Christmas cup.

After work I went to Aeon supermarket to buy a drink and while ignoring the Christmas seasonal displays with a practised ease, I started humming. I had unintentional started humming the music the store was playing which turned out to be a synthesised version of last Christmas.

It was then that I saw the signs above the sushi section, above the bento section above every section. The signs stated in perfect English, so I had no excuse about not seeing them, the words “Merry Christmas”.

I have moves to a country where many consider Christmas to be a strange foreign thing but its everywhere. I even asked my collegues if their children prefer Christmas or New Year’s day and all stated Christmas, due to the gifts they receive instead of money at new years (called お年玉 or otoshidama).

I believe November should be called pre-Christmas month as I cannot escape it. Please ignore the fact I bought a wrief and I immediately placed it on my door….. my annoyance still remains firm.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring

Opinion: the myth of a late train

Or simply put: so what?

This is a post I’ve been thinking about for a while hence the 2 week wait since receiving the late ticket and this post.

Firstly a bit of background information. Everyone has heard the wonderful stories of German and Japanese trains never being late, always arriving on time to the second and arriving in the perfect position each time. This is simply fiction. Even if everything is fine, there will always be something that either delays the train or off sets it’s position.

On November 14 I was riding the JR line from Takachaya Station (brilliant name and they use the old Kanji for station 高茶屋驛) the problem was the train was running late. The problem was the last train to Nabari is at 2315,and I still had get to Ise-Nakagawa first.

An announcement came over the tannary and stated the train would be late. 15 minutes later it arrived.

I always had the image of train attendants handing out late tickets to commuters like confetti. This was not the case. I had to go to the JR officev at Tsu Station and ask for one. I got a brilliant look of ‘what the hell’ from the attendant before he reluctantly printed one off stamped it and gave it to me.

Ignoring the customer service skills, which left a lot to be desired, the impression left was of blame. They seemed almost outraged that I dared ask for it. Completely shatter my nativity why don’t you.

For those of you wondering, the lateness ticket or certificate of lateness is called a 遅延証名書 or chienshomeisho, a word that I cannot seem to remember. Japanese railways give them out (should give them out) to allow a person to prove they were late. Which is an even more troubling statement come to think of it.

I will be fair, I have ridden the JR line in Mie on multiple occasions and it has been delayed or late on multiple occasions as well. It’s not to say that they can’t be on time, but they choose not to be.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Opinion: Japanese opening hours- the warning

A lovely pic from my pre gym workout….

This is going to be a strange post, but how would you cope if seemingly the entire country operates on a 9-5 or similar time. What if your an early bird, or a tourist?

Firstly, this is something I have noticed across Japan, both in cities and in the country side- whether small green grocers or a national monument; Japan operates on Japan time. When looking at places to visit, you need to look at the closing time extremely carefully as there, as a rule, is a last admittance time and a closing time.

While this makes sense in a practical way- to allow workers to have a life outside of work (let’s leave salary men out of this one), having an entire city operate on this kind of time seems counter-intuitive. Osaka, for example, closes for lack of a better word at either 1700 for attractions or 2200 for most day operating restaurants. While there are certainly things to do an see after this, options are extremely limited.

Another example would be Axtos, the gym. Doors only open (regardless of when it closes) at 1000 and as an early bird this annoys me. Ideally, I would go much earlier at 0715 and complete my workout and be ready to start my day around 0930. What you must do, therefore, is to either take extremely long bike riders in the mornings (which I do), run (I need new shoes first), or start later. The problem with option 3, and taking into account the closing times of other shops in Nabari (smaller shops 1700), you’re suddenly left with less time and a lot of things to do.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Japanese parents are always rushing about and stressing about every little thing?

What does this mean for visitors to an area or tourists? Simply put PPPPPPP or proper planning and preparation prevents poor performance (please insert an expletive beginning with p). If you are planning a holiday, a long break or just a trip to the next city, check your locations either on google maps, or that companies websites- even I have fallen into the trap of “it’ll be open” and occasionally it isn’t.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring

Opinion: why?

The tag line reads: a third of people are unable to see this advertisement.

There is a weird theme in Japan which rarely surfaces, and when it does it almost needs to be celebrated and that is weird media.

This is most noticable when googling Japanese game shows, or seeing strange pages of manga or viewing weird anime but it can make its’ way into newspapers.

The advertisement is nothing special- as you could expect it just talks about their products. But here’s a challenge (if you can understand any Japanese), please look at the image and try to make out what is said- either what kana you know, what kanji or if you can read the whole thing. It shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes- but your eyes will not thank you for this experience.

Opinion: it’s coming

On the 22 of November Frozen 2 is being released and I hate to say it but it does look good.

Regardless of this, the advertising and promotion has scarcely started but there are hints of its’ coming: case and point- Aeon.

What I love about this promotional stand is that it consists of just cakes and Japanese treats and there is nothing long lasting on sale.

What I enjoy the most is that its’ release seems mostly unknown or more likely is being ignored by my Japanese colleagues that have children.

When looking into the products in more detail, they are contain quite a few artificial ingredients and all are highly processed, high in fats, sugar, and calories. The impression this gives is along the lines of enjoy being lazy while eating all the calories. Nutrition and health are not as important as people buying the products (none of which were being bought).

Perhaps I was being a bit harsh- there are bottles of green tea that also are decorated with Frozen 2 advertisements, along with sweets, chocolate and ice cream- I have yet to see an action figurine prior to release. I guess that is to come and just before Christmas/ New Years’s in Japan (when children receive money to allow them to buy things with called Otoshidama [お年玉] ).

Let’s just hope there is no song which will be repeated for months (although I can still enjoy let it go- when I want to listen to it and not being forced to).

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Christmas: Advent calendars in Japan?

Advent is a christian festival where they count down until Christmas and this idea of counting down to Christmas was made into the advent calendar. Each and every day, you open a card window and enjoy a little sugar rush of delicious chocolate (which is so much better than the advent candle approach where you watch a candle burn).

Traditionally, advent calendars are only found in countries with a strong christian history. Even though it could be argues that Japan has a long history of Christianity (of about 400 years), Japan is mostly secular.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I saw these advent calendars in Aeon of Disney characters and (even more surprisingly) a traditional Christmas scene.

An extremely typical advent Calendar design

The product features German, French and English but not Japanese. To ensure that I wasn’t going mad, I asked my Japanese colleague about advent calendars and they gave me a look of confusion and asked what it was (well more I told them what it was).

I have previously reported on this sort of product only being featured in Japan once it had been changed to reflect more of the culture, but this seems to be an complete abnormality in this area. I will need to look into this further, but advent calendars are as strange as I in Japan it seems.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.